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The Behaviourist Approach | AQA B Psychology
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The Behaviourist Approach

The Behaviourist Approach


  • Al behaviour is learnt from experience
  • All behaviour occurs via learning from experiences of the environment
  • The theory of classical conditioning assumes that we learn by association
  • The theory of operant conditioning assumes that the law of effect explains why if behaviour is reinforced i.e. rewarded it will be repeated
  • General laws derived from the animal experiments can be extrapolated and applied to humans
  • The scientific experimental method is the most appropriate method for studying behaviour
  • We are born with ‘clean slates’ and learning is not instinctive
  • Cognitive mental processes cannot be observed or measure, so it is assumed they are not relevant to the scientific study of human behaviour
  • Unconscious mental processes are no relevant to the study of human behaviour

Classical Conditioning – consists of a response of a stimulus and association.

Studies include – Pavlov’s Dogs, and Watson and Raynor Little Albert.

Operant Conditioning – consists of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment.

Studies include – Skinners rat in the box – rat pushes lever for food, rewarded and rats continued to push lever.

  • Positive Reinforcement – Involves the addition of something
  • Negative Reinforcement – Involves the removal of something
  • Punishment – Behaviour which is punished is less likely to occur in the future


  • Unconditioned stimulus – food presented to the dog
  • Neutral stimulus – the bell before it is paired with food
  • Conditioned stimulus
  • Stimulus generalisation – learnt response to a specific stimulus is generalised to other similar stimulus’s
  • Stimulus discrimination – learnt response to a specific stimulus but doesn’t respond the same way to a new stimuli

Observational learning – learnt through other peoples actions

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